Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 30 of
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (TV 2) ?
If you could choose to live in the world of any anime, you probably wouldn't choose Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans. There are no Gundams to speak of in this episode, but there's a double helping of the bleakness and death-flagging that Iron-Blooded Orphans delivers so well. The second cour has perfected the art of telling a universal story through intimate portraits of just one or two characters, and this episode is a great example of that.
If Tekkadan is a family, the first part of this episode is about the warmth of family life. We cycle through several domestic portraits that might take place in any family home—from the Tekkadan members complimenting Chad's new suit with brotherly pride, to Mikazuki mothering Orga by adding additional nutrients to his dinner, to Takaki and Aston talking about Fuka's studies. Whether on Mars or on Earth, this family is close knit, but this episode indicates how that love and trust for family members could be Tekkadan's undoing. Nobody liked when Teiwaz sent Merribit at first, but now she's one of Orga's most trusted advisors. So surely, the same thing should eventually happy with Teiwaz's latest transplant Radice, right? Just kidding. Unlike Merribit, who clashed with the orphans out of misguided concern for them, Radice doesn't even respect their intelligence. He's an egotist selling everybody out for his own gain.
But this isn't Radice's story. It's pretty clear that while he's having some success manipulating Tekkadan now, it won't last, and Orga has already figured out that something is off. No, this is Takaki's story. He's got something precious to fight for—the domestic bliss that he's found with Fuka and Aston—but he's painfully inexperienced and young. There's a clear contrast between him and his new friend Aston, a former member of Human Debris who's been mistreated and deceived, becoming wise to the crooked ways of the world. “Tekkadan is family. Radice is one of us now,” Takaki insists, even though the writing's already on the wall. Takaki's loyalty is what motivates him to fight, but it's also his greatest weakness. This very drive to be responsible for the others is ironically what will clearly put them in danger. Since later scenes are cut with narration from Takaki in the future, we know he's going to survive to see exactly how the grisly details go down. Instead, it's Aston who raises a death flag, vowing to kill or die for Takaki and enraging him. It's another contrast that shows Takaki's innocence and Aston's jaded world-weariness, on the brink of a perfect storm of disaster.
On the note of Aston and the rest of the Human Debris, these guys clearly have an inferiority complex, but who wouldn't after being told you're worthless for so long? I love the way they rally around Chad Chadon (what a classic awful Gundam name, even better than Hush Middy) in his nice clothes, showing that former Human Debris can be presentable and worthy of nice things. Still, there's always this readiness to throw their lives away. Takaki saw Aston's vow as less than noble, but I can't deny that Chad's protection of Makanai was nothing short of heroic. These former Human Debris have no rank, no history, nothing but their character. Now they're being recognized for their merits—Chad is a hero, whether he survives or not. It's interesting to parallel this with Gaelio and Julietta's conversation about rank and favoritism. Julietta notes that she has no title or importance, only her skill at piloting, but with a good commander to notice, that was enough for her to get her position. It doesn't take much deduction to see how different that is from most of Gjallarhorn, which focuses on old families and pedigree.
It'll take three weeks for Tekkadan's ship to travel from Mars to Earth, and in that time, anything could happen. Probably a lot of terrible things will happen in that time, during this brief interlude where Takaki is putty in Radice's hands. There's no reason to think that things are getting better—this episode's non-ending leaves us with an empty feeling of hopelessness. As the story sets up a brewing war and focuses in on Takaki's personal struggles, I can already tell that this is going to hit hard. As we've eased into this second cour, I've become increasingly forgiving of these Gundam-less episodes, because the emotional impact is worse than Barbatos's fist.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans is available streaming at Daisuki.net.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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